Facebook's role in Capitol riots underscores need for better rules ahead of Australia's federal election

  • Media Release
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Explosive revelations about Facebook’s decision to relax its election-proofing measures prior to the US Capitol riots demonstrates the consequences of the social media giant’s unchecked power, as Reset Australia calls for urgent measures to be considered ahead of Australia’s own election.

Ahead of the upcoming federal election, Reset Australia says Facebook and other social media platforms need to be compelled to act more transparently, particularly during elections.

“No matter how much or how little we use social media – we are all affected by Facebook’s lack of accountability,” said Dhakshayini Sooriyakumaran, tech policy director at Reset Australia, the local arm of a global effort to combat Big Tech’s harms to society.

Reset Australia is calling for the government to mandate platforms publish an election “live list” of the most viral misinformation that has the potential to have a serious societal impact.

“Australian authorities and the Australian public should be able to answer questions like: What kind of content is being amplified by these platforms? Who made it? What kind of demographics are consuming it? To do that we need a live list of the most contentious issues our society is facing, so we can begin to tackle misinformation collectively and transparently.”

Facebook should also reveal which Australian politicians are currently on Facebook “whitelist” (known as XCheck) which exempts millions of high-profile users from moderation, which poses a significant disadvantage to incumbents.

“Research shows the most divisive content receives the most views and is the most profitable. Facebook, a company with a trillion dollar market capitalization, is not concerned with the integrity of our democratic processes because it isn’t required to be by any law or regulation.

“Timid efforts to self-regulate haven’t worked - Facebook’s contribution to the Capitol riots are evidence of that. Voluntary and opt-in codes, such as the Australian code of conduct on disinformation and misinformation, are insufficient.

“Australia is not immune to the harmful by-products of Big Tech. We know Kosovo troll farms stoked outrage in Australia with xenophobic content, bots swarmed Twitter, and Facebook spotted 2.2 billion fake accounts between January and March 2019.

“We saw how easily Facebook ‘switched off the news’ during a global pandemic and its failure to remove the bogus death tax claims. Facebook groups promoting COVID-19 misinformation continue to grow.

“Tech giants have created platforms that produce both mega-profits and serious societal problems. If they accept the profits, they must also accept the oversight.”

Further comment: Dhakshayini Sooriyakumaran 0475 458 201

Photo by Ajay Parthasarathy on Unsplash